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Crist signs executive order to give property owners another tool against BP

A day after the Florida Legislature adjourned without taking up his plan to put an oil drilling ban on the ballot, Gov. Charlie Crist kicked lawmakers back and signed an executive order to give property owners another tool to collect money from BP in the counties affected by the spill.

The order applies to all 26 counties under the current state of emergency and gives property appraisers authority to provide an interim assessment "of any property that has dropped in value because of the oil spill." Property owners would then be able to use that documentation to file a claim against BP or any other responsible party

"It is logical to predict that the oil spill will result in declining property values,'' Crist said at a news conference. "Businesses and families of the Gulf Coast did nothing to warrant this loss, but they bear the burden of it.'' Download 2010.7.21 EO Interim Property Assessment[1]

Crist said he expects the cost of the extra assessment to be minimal and noted that he did not consult with BP before he signed the order. "I have not asked BP's permission to do this. We got it from the Constitution."

Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who is chairing the Senate's select committee dealing with economic issues in the Gulf, called the governor's order  a "better late than never response" but noted that there are some unanswered questions.

"I’m glad that the gov has gotten the sleep out of his eyes on these economic issues,'' he said. "I’m not sure how an indiv prop owner will be able to take this interim assessment to BP and get satisfaction. Let's hope that is the case.''

The governor did not include property tax and other related economic issues in the call for the session, but House and Senate leaders could have done it themselves. They could have voted to expand the agenda and include it into the governor's called session, or adjourn the session and call themselves into special session and take it up themselves. They rejected both approaches and said they'll come back in special session in late August or September.